It’s Not Fat, It’s Fuel: My Personal Struggle with Body Image

One of my favorite workout shirts has the phrase, It’s not fat, it’s fuel, printed boldly on the front.  I love the color and the statement.  To me, it is profound.  Each and every time I run I need to remind myself that it is not fat… it is fuel.  You see, I struggle with body image.

it's not fat, it is fuel: my struggle with body image

I fall victim to the comparison trap.  I compare my body, fitness level, parenting, marriage, material status, and children to those near by.  Sometimes I feel I come out ahead… while other times I fail behind. I struggle with comparing myself to others.

This unhealthy habit is especially true when I view my body.  When I hop on the scale, I do not like the number that shows up.  When I go to purchase new clothes (real or workout)… I am not a fan of the number or the letter.  I struggle with body dysmorphia.

you are more

Yet what I fail to see is the strong woman, wife, mother that I am.  I am strong.  I am healthy.  I can run for hours and many miles without stopping.  I can run faster today than I could a year ago.  I can hold my body weight for a few seconds at a time while balancing on my hands!

I may not be the fittest fitness and running blogger that you will find on the net.  I also know that I am not the fastest running blog around.  I may not share healthy recipes and fitness workouts… because I too am a work in progress and on this journey.

RunningRachel flexing her mamaguns

I find myself comparing myself to other runners and fellow gym goers.  I compare myself to other health and fitness bloggers who seem to have their health, fitness, and life organized and well put together.  I compare.  I struggle.  I envy.  I lust.

I know that I am a work in progress.  I can not get to my goal weight or fitness level by eating all the cookies I desire.  I need to treat my body how I want it to look.  I need to TALK to myself the way I would want to be treated… stop the negative self-talk. 

I struggle with body image.  When I look in the mirror, I do not see what YOU see.  I see all the things that could and should be.  Not the things that are presently in front of me.

I see the things that have changed through three pregnancies, three c-sections, three nursing children… and age.  I need to change my focus to the positives and non-scale victories in my day.

For example, My upper body (arms and shoulders) are getting stronger from my handstand challenge each week!  I am running faster… even if it isn’t SUPER FAST… it is fast for me.  I am seeing definition in my body… even if the scale isn’t moving DOWN (but rather UP)… I am firming and toning.

I am running my fifth half marathon next weekend, March 17th.  I am excited to be running with some good girlfriends.  However, I found myself comparing my running ability (or lack there of) to their speediness.  I started doubting my ability and my training.

I had to take a step back and reflect upon the positive of my running experiences with the half marathon.  I may not finish at the predetermined race time (of a sub 2 hour finish like I had planned back in December).  But I am confident that I will set a personal best for this distance!

My first half was in 2004, in Louisville, Kentucky.  I had no children and trained and ran for the love of running.  I finished with a time of 2:19:43.  I was not winded and finished with loads to spare.  It was a fun first race.

My second half was in 2007, in Kansas City, MO.  I had a 15 month old and was pregnant (unknown to me) at the time.  My training was sporadic all while pushing C in the jogger.  I finished that hilly (Hospital Hill Marathon) race in 2:43:40.

My third half was in 2010, in Redding, CA.  The race was HOT, HILLY and I was not prepared with hydration and fuel.  I bonked at mile 7.  I finished in 2:25:27.

My fifth half was this past October, in San Francisco, CA.  It was the Nike Women’s Half Marathon.  It was fun, crowded, and mega hilly.  I trained as well as I could while being sick and injured with plantar fasciitis.  I finished in 2:18:27… a personal best!  Who knew!?

What I am trying to say (and remind myself of) is that God made us who we are… for a reason.  We can’t wish we are someone else… because that person is already taken.  We don’t know the burden they have (good and bad).

be true to you

I may still struggle with my body image… but I am learning to trust that this old body can accomplish some pretty amazing things!  I am going to rock my run… and continue to challenge myself.  I will continue to work on the positive affirmations toward my body and fitness level.  I am me.  There is no one alive who is more ME than ME!

Do you struggle with body image issues?
Do you compare yourself with others?
How do you combat and ward off the negative self-talk?

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  1. Melanie says

    Thank you! I needed this on my weigh in morning that went up instead of down. I needed to remind myself that non scale related success is just as important, if not more so! When you’re trying to lose it’s hard to see the scale go the other way because you know how much effort you’re putting in. But I had someone tell me not to long ago, even maintaining is a great success. How true that is!! Thank you again for this wonderful post!

  2. says

    Great post!! This is a subject that is near & dear to my heart because I kind of feel like you’re talking about me too… I struggle with my body image every day… I look in the mirror & see so many things I don’t like & I still see that girl that was me 50+ lbs ago, not the one that everyone else sees. I just try to remind myself that I’ve come so far & I’m so much healthier & fitter than I used to be… I’m NOT that girl that I see in my head anymore.
    Karey @ Nutty About Health recently posted..My Blogging Anniversary Celebration

  3. says

    Oh lady!!!! I struggle so badly… compare too much…. its awful. I think you are amazing… I would give anything to have your body, staminia, energy… see, there’s always someone who looks up to you as you look up to someone else :)

    I just ran my worst 5k EVER & cried for an hour… real tears.. real heart ache & I forget that there’s people who never even attempted a 5k… but we compare. I see others times, others strengths, other’s body’s & I see my time, my weakness & my faults on my body… its heavy sometimes … so you’re not alone!

    (FYI – Louisville, KY – did you do the Ky derby mini? that’s my home turf) :)

  4. says

    I definitely struggle with body image issues, too. Our society is one where we are naturally made to feel “less than” somebody else due to the numbers on the scale or the numbers in the clothes we buy. Although I have lost over 100 lbs, I ma never happy with the number on the scale. I always have complaints about parts of my body that aren’t as toned/lean as I would like them to be. You can pretty much always hear me complaining about my fat calves and wings. It is always hard to get that old image out of your head, definitely leading to a distortion of what we see vs. what others see.

    Thanks for the post! It is a helpful reminder that we are so much more than we think we are.

  5. says

    Great post Rachel! And yes, I do struggle with my body image. I’ve getting closer to accepting it the way that is and knowing that there are some things I can change as long as I put the effort in. I keep the negative self-talk at bay by working harder towards my goals and remembering where I came from, not where someone else already is.
    Leslie recently posted..Winter Reflections

  6. says

    THANK YOU! This is lovely and I think we all fall victim to it from time to time. I find it’s super hard to be around my single non parent friends. They have perfect bodies, get full nights of sleep and I get jealous.

    I think it’s easy to forget other people have struggles too. and we get all consumed in our own.

    I think you WILL ROCK that half marathon :) And your headstand posts really make me want to try one!
    Renee recently posted..A great day for a run!

    • says

      Thank you for your words of encouragement! I agree. I think everyone has their own battles they are fighting… some are seen while others are hidden. We are not equipped to carry the burden of someone else… only our own.

  7. Amanda P says

    Good luck Rachel! I saw a quote recently, that I loved. It was something to the effect of…the only person you need to compare yourself to, is the person you were yesterday.

  8. says

    I recently quit weighing myself and I quit counting calories. I know SO much about nutrition and I know how my body feels and my clothes fit. I am trying to focus on nourishing, real food for my body and not on calories in calories out. This has really helped my perception with my body. For too long my self-esteem was based on the number on the scale and the calories I burned vs. the calories I consumed. I also struggle with comparing myself in a positive and negative way with others–who’s in better shape, etc. Really working on that too!

    • says

      Yes. Yes. Yes! I gave up the scale for the longest time… but it has slowly returned. I find that I struggle mostly with outside images of STUFF. :sigh: AlwWAYS working on my lust and coveting issues 😉


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